This morning I want to talk about the future of Europe. While we must never take this for granted, the first purpose of the European Union – to secure peace – has been achieved and we should pay tribute to all those in the EU, alongside Nato, who made that happen. But today the main, overriding purpose of the European Union is different: not to win peace, but to secure prosperity. The challenges come not from within this continent but outside it. From the surging economies in the east and south. Of course a growing world economy benefits us all, but we should be in no doubt that a new global race of nations is under way today: A race for the wealth and jobs of the future.
The map of global influence is changing before our eyes. And these changes are already being felt by the entrepreneur in the Netherlands, the worker in Germany, the family in Britain. So I want to speak to you today with urgency and frankness about the European Union and how it must change – both to deliver prosperity and to retain the support of its peoples.
But first, I want to set out the spirit in which I approach these issues. I know that the United Kingdom is sometimes seen as an argumentative and rather strong-minded member of the family of European nations.
For us, the European Union is a means to an end – prosperity, stability, the anchor of freedom and democracy both within Europe and beyond her shores – not an end in itself. We insistently ask: how, why, to what end?
Over the years, Britain has made her own, unique contribution to Europe. We have provided a haven to those fleeing tyranny and persecution. And in Europe's darkest hour, we helped keep the flame of liberty alight. Across the continent, in silent cemeteries, lie the hundreds of thousands of British servicemen who gave their lives for Europe's freedom.
Don't pull the drawbridge. This is Britain today, as it's always been: independent, yes – but open, too. I never want us to pull up the drawbridge and retreat from the world. I am not a British isolationist. I don't just want a better deal for Britain. I want a better deal for Europe too. So I speak as British prime minister with a positive vision for the future of the European Union. A future in which Britain wants to play a committed and active part.
First, the problems in the eurozone are driving fundamental change in Europe. Second, there is a crisis of European competitiveness, as other nations across the world soar ahead. And third, there is a gap between the EU and its citizens which has grown dramatically in recent years. And which represents a lack of democratic accountability and consent that is – yes – felt particularly acutely in Britain. If we don't address these challenges, the danger is that Europe will fail and the British people will drift towards the exit.
More of the same will not secure a long-term future for the eurozone. More of the same will not see the Union keeping pace with the new powerhouse economies. More of the same will not bring the European Union any closer to its citizens. More of the same will just produce more of the same: less competitiveness, less growth, fewer jobs. And that will make our countries weaker not stronger. That is why we need fundamental, far-reaching change. So let me set out my vision for a new European Union, fit for the 21st century.
It is built on five principles. The first: competitiveness. At the core of the Union must be, as it is now, the single market. Britain is at the heart of that market, and must remain so. I want us to be at the forefront of transformative trade deals with the US, Japan and India as part of the drive towards global free trade. And I want us to be pushing to exempt Europe's smallest entrepreneurial companies from more EU directives.
That means creating a leaner, less bureaucratic union, relentlessly focused on helping its member countries to compete. And I would ask: when the competitiveness of the single market is so important, why is there an environment council, a transport council, an education council but not a single market council?
The second principle should be flexibility. We need a structure that can accommodate the diversity of its members – north, south, east, west, large, small, old and new. I accept, of course, that for the single market to function we need a common set of rules and a way of enforcing them. But we also need to be able to respond quickly to the latest developments and trends.
Competitiveness demands flexibility, choice and openness – or Europe will fetch up in a no-man's land between the rising economies of Asia and market-driven North America. The EU must be able to act with the speed and flexibility of a network, not the cumbersome rigidity of a bloc.
We believe in a flexible union of free member states who share treaties and institutions and pursue together the ideal of co-operation. To represent and promote the values of European civilisation in the world. To advance our shared interests by using our collective power to open markets. And to build a strong economic base across the whole of Europe. This vision of flexibility and co-operation is not the same as those who want to build an ever closer political union – but it is just as valid.
Power must flow back. My third principle is that power must be able to flow back to member states, not just away from them. This was promised by European leaders at Laeken a decade ago. It was put in the treaty. But the promise has never really been fulfilled. We need to implement this principle properly.
Countries are different. They make different choices. We cannot harmonise everything. For example, it is neither right nor necessary to claim that the integrity of the single market, or full membership of the European Union requires the working hours of British hospital doctors to be set in Brussels irrespective of the views of British parliamentarians and practitioners.
In the same way we need to examine whether the balance is right in so many areas where the European Union has legislated including on the environment, social affairs and crime. Nothing should be off the table.
My fourth principle is democratic accountability: we need to have a bigger and more significant role for national parliaments. There is not, in my view, a single European demos. It is national parliaments, which are, and will remain, the true source of real democratic legitimacy and accountability in the EU. It is to the Bundestag that Angela Merkel has to answer. It is through the Greek parliament that Antonis Samaras has to pass his government's austerity measures. It is to the British parliament that I must account on the EU budget negotiations, or on the safeguarding of our place in the single market. Those are the parliaments which instil proper respect – even fear – into national leaders. We need to recognise that in the way the EU does business.
My fifth principle is fairness: whatever new arrangements are enacted for the eurozone, they must work fairly for those inside it and out. That will be of particular importance to Britain. As I have said, we will not join the single currency. But there is no overwhelming economic reason why the single currency and the single market should share the same boundary, any more than the single market and Schengen.
Our participation in the single market, and our ability to help set its rules is the principal reason for our membership. So it is a vital interest for us to protect its integrity and fairness for all its members. And that is why Britain has been so concerned to promote and defend the single market as the eurozone crisis rewrites the rules on fiscal co-ordination and banking union.
These five principles provide what, I believe, is the right approach for the European Union.
David Cameron ist seit dem 11. Mai 2010 Premierminister des Vereinigten Königreichs. Er ist seit 2005 Parteivorsitzender der britischen Konservativen, der „Tories“, mit denen er nach 13 Jahren unter Tony Blair und Gordon Brown die Labour Party in der Regierungsmacht ablöste. Am Mittwoch hat er die hier in einem Auszug vorliegende Rede gehalten, mit der er die EU-Skepsis vieler Briten anspricht. Unter anderem hat er auch angekündigt, die Insel 2017 – sollte er dann noch an der Macht sein – über den Verbleib in der Union abstimmen zu lassen.
("Die Presse", Print-Ausgabe, 27.01.2013)